•Why APC’s NWC upturned Appeal Committee’s report and upheld Governorship Primary Committee report
In Odigie-Oyegun’s domicile
IT was on a cool evening that I met with the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, at his Abuja residence, last weekend. It was certainly not my first meeting with him, as I knew Odigie-Oyegun since 1991 when he emerged as the first civilian governor of Edo state.
Though, his tenure was short-lived, as a military junta, led by former Head of State; the late General Sani Abacha sacked the then civilian government, vulgarly aborting the Third Republic. We were to meet again during the days of South-South Peoples Assembly, SSPC, which he was the national chairman, but had cause to quit the exalted position on principle.
I questioned him then, he replied that he would not be party to a South-South group where some people would want to box everybody into a particular party. (He meant PDP) without which you would not be regarded. He was one of the few South-South leaders, who felt that former President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, PDP were not performing and he had no reason to support the party.
One of his associates recalled to this reporter that after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, presumably won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola, some top brass of the military wanted to get the defunct SDP to cooperate with the Abacha government and had permeated the party. The national leadership of the party convened a meeting in Benin City, the capital of his state, to discuss the way forward.
“While some of the leaders were favorably disposed to abandoning the Abiola mandate, Odigie-Oyegun delivered a powerful message, reminding the party leaders of a Benin adage, which says: “It is better to show a child where his father died defending his honour than that path he took fleeing into the bush.
‘It was his potent submission and that of a few others that led to the formation of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO. Besides being governors on the platform of the defunct SDP, his membership of NADECO with the National Leader of APC, Alhaji Bola Tinubu, many took them as birds of the same plumage until the outburst, last month, by the latter, calling for his resignation, accusing him of treachery in the Governorship Primary of APC in Ondo state,” he said.
This reporter had called Odigie-Oyegun on phone penultimate week from his base in Delta state on the raging feud between him and Tinubu, but said he would not want to speak on the issue until he met with President Muhammadu Buhari.
By the time I got to Abuja, last week, for separate engagements with some Niger Delta leaders in Abuja, he had already met with President Buhari and issued a statement that read something like: “Tinubu cannot sack me on the pages of newspapers,” which was the headline in some newspapers.
Therefore, I told myself, there should be no encumbrance to his speaking to me. I wanted to know among other things what has happened to the Odigie-Oyegun I used to know, if the leopard has changed its spot and why?
Getting to his residence, some persons I assume to be politicians or his friends were on one side of his sitting room discussing the burning issue, a former governor of Edo state sauntered in minutes after my arrival to congratulate him on their party’s victory in the just concluded governorship election in Edo state.
My presence having being announced, the APC chair, who was in another section of the mansion walked in to confer and disperse the politicians and friends so to speak, leaving me and the former governor, who after introduction, sensed that I might want to have a private discussion with Odigie-Oyegun and excused himself to sit at another part of the house.
Interrogating APC chair
It was like an interrogation session as I fired at Odigie-Oyegun. What is happening, have you changed?
“My basic philosophy as national chairman is that APC must have internal democracy; those who won and lost should accept the outcome, which is the way to avoid bitterness among members so that nobody will feel unjustly deprived.”
On his troubles with Tinubu, he declined giving details, saying: “I see Tinubu as a valued member of APC, but I think he was badly advised by people who have things they want to benefit from.”
What probably sparked the row?
A dependable source, however, hinted that Tinubu’s anger was kindled against Oyegun when the candidate he brought from Lagos to be deputy to the Abubakar Audu of Kogi state lost out in the intrigues that led to the emergence of the new governor.
“The real trigger is the court judgment that came before the NWC decision on the Ondo state governorship primary. Getting another blow in Ondo state when he was yet to come off the Kogi loss was what the Asiwaju could not stomach,” the source said.
According to our source: “He felt Oyegun has joined the party members in the South-West, who are fighting against his leadership, not knowing that Oyegun was merely living up to time-honoured principle of upholding equity and rule of law.”
“You see, Tinubu has the habit of fighting anybody he has issues with via the media, he does not want to exhaust available party means of conflict resolution before rushing to the press, this is the problem,” the source added.
Findings by Saturday Vanguard showed that 15 members of the NWC of the party held an emergency meeting on September 19 principally to consider the Ondo state governorship primary election and the primary Election Appeal Committee’s report.
According to the minutes of the meeting obtained by Saturday Vanguard, present were the national chairman, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, deputy national chairman (S), Engr Segun Oni, deputy national chair (N), Sen Lawal Shuaibu, national secretary, Hon Mai Mala Buni, national vice chair (N/W), Inuwa Abdul-Kador Esq., national vice chair (S/E), Hon Emma Eneukwu, his South-South counterpart, Prince Hillard Etagbo Eta, Chief Pius Oluwole Akinyelure (S/W), Mallam Zakari Idde (N/C), Alhaji Bala Moh’d Gwagwarwa, national treasurer, Senator Osita Izunaso, national organizing secretary, Chief George Moghalu, national auditor, Alhaji Tajudeen Bello, national financial secretary, Hon Ibrahim Jalo, national youth leader and Mr Oji Ngofa, deputy national secretary.
The meeting started at 3.30 pm with opening prayer by the national financial secretary, after which Odigie-Oyegun in his opening remarks reminded members of the purpose of the meeting, urging them to critically review the reports to ensure that the NWC decision was not reproached.
Ondo Governorship Primary Election report
The national organizing secretary presented a memo to the NWC in respect of the Ondo governorship primary election, which was submitted by the committee’s chair, His Excellency, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar.
Deliberating on the report, the attention of NWC was drawn to page 15, where some aspirants complained about the delegates’ list, while the national vice chairman (NW) and the deputy national chairman (N), who spoke on the matter, stressed the importance of delegates list in the conduct of such exercise and wondered why the committee could not seek clarification from the party.
Having noted the observation, the NWC proceeded with the adoption of the report through a motion moved and seconded by the national vice chair (NW) and the national vice chair (SE) respectively.
Appeal Committee report and its inconsistencies
The national organizing secretary presented a memo to the NWC for the consideration of the Ondo State primary Election Appeal report in line with the party’s constitution and guidelines. In considering the report, the national vice chair (NW), observed that it was inappropriate for the national organizing secretary to have given to himself the prerogative of harmonizing the delegates list without resort to the NWC.
He deplored the situation where delegates list got to the aspirants through a fellow contestant, the issuance of two delegates list and the inclusion of Owo local government area when it was under litigations.
The national organizing secretary explained his action, saying it was one delegates list that was used for the primary and that the few changes in the list reflected the observation of some of the aspirants. He informed the meeting that the injection of Owo local government area was done in compliance with the unvacated court judgment as advised by the national legal adviser.
The national vice chair (SS) on his part observed that the discrepancies in the Appeal Committee’s report were completely misleading , adding that whereas, the Primary Election Committee’s report indicated that 2,774 delegates were accredited, the Appeal Committee’s report erroneously recorded it as those who voted in the election, thereby creating a false impression of over voting in the exercise.
To establish the truth regarding the delegates list and in line with the suggestion made by the national vice chair (SS), the meeting resolved that the national organizing secretary should circulate the two contentious delegates’ list to the NWC members the following day to enable them ascertain the level of disparity and whether it has the tendency of substantially affecting the outcome of the primary.
The meeting subsequently adjourned at 4.00pm to reconvene the next day, Tuesday, September 20.
After deliberation on that day, the NWC rejected the Appeal Committee’s report, as it considered it fundamentally flawed for the committee failing among other things to invite the national secretariat to authenticate or otherwise, disclaim the source of the disputed delegates list as the custodian and also failing to invite the chairman and embers of the Ondo state Governorship Primary Election Committee “to clarify the allegation of manipulation on the accreditation process, but rather chose to rely on unsubstantiated evidence(s) of probably procured witnesses as basis for the nullification of the primary.”
The NWC also observed a serious contradiction in the Appeal Committee’s report in respect of the number of the accredited delegates. “Whereas the Primary Election Committee’s report indicated 2,774 delegates were accredited, the Appeal Committee’s report recorded it as those who voted in the election, thereby creating false impression of over voting in the exercise.”
Concluding the September 20 meeting, the NWC held that the Appeal Committee contradicted itself when it admitted that the Primary Election Committee substantially complied with the rules guiding the process, but still proceeded with the nullification of the primary elections.
The meeting resolved to exploit a political solution and mandated the national chairman and secretary to commence wider consultation with the stakeholders with a view to arriving at the appropriate way for the resolution of the matter and revert to the NWC before the expiration date for the submission of candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
On September 22, the national chairman informed the meeting that some level of consultations with stakeholders took place but not exhaustive enough due to time constraint occasioned by the deadline for submission of candidates to INEC.
Deliberation on the matter polarized the members, some of whom supported the idea of submitting a dummy to INEC pending the ‘political ‘resolution of the matter or submitting the name of the winner of the primary election.
How NWC nailed the coffin
The national organizing secretary, however, raised a point of order that the NWC had earlier adopted the report of the Primary Election Committee, while that of the Appeal Committee was set aside. He reasoned that the implication of both decision was that the name of winner of the primary election should be submitted, “Unless the NWC will now reverse its earlier decision.”
Consequent on the valid observation, the national chair ruled that that the previous decision of the NWC be upheld and those, who did not know the democratic process that led to the decision tagged it duplicity.